South Africa: Being Queer or Trans Can Still Mean Death, Even After 285 Years of Struggle for Justice in Cape Town


In each of the stories told below, queer and trans persons have resisted oppression and responded to the pervasive homophobia and transphobia they experience. It is important to honour this history of queer struggle for justice, but while this history marks our progress, how much has really changed in 285 years?

Gabriel Hoosain Khan is the stream leader for inclusivity capacity building at the Office for Inclusivity and Change at the University of Cape Town.

On 3 May 2021, Phelokazi Mqathana (24) was stabbed to death in Khayelitsha for rebuffing the advances of a man. A queer womxn’s life was cut short by a deeply heteronormative and patriarchal world. Since the start of 2021, seven other queer and trans persons have been murdered, a testament to the pervasive homophobic and transphobic violence present in South Africa.

It is in this painful context that an arc of queer resistance unfurls across the city, as long and smooth as the curved sand of Bloubergstrand. An arc linking Robben Island to Camps Bay and stretching from 285 years ago to today.

Remembering this arc of resistance in the week of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (Idahot, 16 May) can offer…



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